By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Earlier this week, Governor Tony Evers delivered his first State of the State Address. Evers outlined his plans for this upcoming year and term which looks at several issues including health care, incarceration and education.
One of Evers’ biggest talking points throughout his campaign was education, which makes sense given his past role as state superintendent. As such, it was the first issue that Evers addressed, siting that education can help connect the dots to some of Wisconsin’s major issues.
Evers said he plans to introduce the budget soon. It will focus and begin on education, he said. The plan is to return two-thirds funding to schools throughout Wisconsin. There will also be a special emphasis on children with special needs. He said the budget will allocate resources for those students and include a $600 million-dollar increase for special education funding.
With a focus on funding for schools, Evers hopes to help close the achievement gap among low-income students and students of color. As part of his Urban Initiatives Plan, Evers said he will “empower minority students in our state’s highest-need districts by expanding early childhood education and summer school grant programs.”
Another hot topic in the nation, especially in Wisconsin, is healthcare. As a person with a pre-existing condition, Evers understands the struggle that many Wisconsinites face.
“The people of Wisconsin voted for a change this November and asked us to stop playing politics with their health care,” Evers said.
As part of this, Evers has asked Attorney General Josh Kaul to withdraw from a lawsuit which would take away coverage for the 2.4 million Wisconsin residents who have a pre-existing condition.
In addition to healthcare, Evers said he is going to be addressing Wisconsin’s transportation funding crisis. It’s an issue Milwaukee understands all too well. Evers appointed Secretary-designee Craig Thompson to spearhead the solution and find one that works for Wisconsin.
Evers said Thompson makes the best choice, because he can work on “both sides od the aisle” which would allow for a bipartisan policy solution. Hopefully, it’s a solution that includes pot-hole maintenance and financial security for bus lines.
In addition to transportation, Evers declared 2019 as the Year of Clean Drinking Water in Wisconsin. Evers reported that the Department of Health Services found that 1.7 million Wisconsinites depend on private wells for their drinking water. Forty-seven percent of those wells don’t meet the acceptable health standards.
On top of that, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 176,000 lead service exist in the state. Like transportation, lead is a major issue here in Milwaukee. It’s one that desperately needs to be fixed.
Evers said removing the lead service lines could cost over $2 billion. He added that Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that for every $1 dollar spent, Wisconsin would receive a 133 percent return on in vestment in higher lifetime earnings. Additionally, less lead means better health overall.
In the upcoming weeks, Evers plans to sign an executive order which would designate a person at the Department of Health Services to facilitate the solution. This person would ideally take charge in addressing Wisconsin’s lead crisis and help secure federal funding for treatment and prevention programs, Evers said.
Evers said the people of Wisconsin expect and deserve, “an economy that works for all of us, healthier communities, more money for our kids and our schools, better roads and infrastructure.”
In his conclusion, Evers expressed his hope for the future of Wisconsin and the future of Wisconsin’s kids. He added that at times it will be frustrating and there may be disagreements, but he plans to maintain a dialogue.
“And we will govern with a humble appreciation that the will of the people—our people—is the law of the land,” Evers said. “Now, let’s get back to work. Thank you, and On, Wisconsin!”
Many Wisconsinites are hoping that a change in government will bring a change to the state. With Evers’ first State of Address over, they’re looking forward to seeing his words become actions.